The BBC website has failed to hit its target of reaching 65 per cent of the UK adult online population by 2013, an official report revealed today.
Despite a surge in the use of BBC Online during last summer's London Olympics, the number of users then fell and is currently at around 60 per cent of adults with internet access, a similar level to late 2010.
In a report today, the BBC's governing body the BBC Trust calls on the organisation's management to make various changes to the service, including improvements to the provision of local news and information which it said was "not particularly comprehensive".
The report also revealed that audience appreciation index (AI) figures have fallen from a high of 83 in 2008 to 78 in 2013. The AI dropped as low as 72 last year, following changes to the site including a relaunch of the BBC Online news service.
BBC Online is also failing to meet its target of 22m clickthroughs a year for connecting users to external sites. "We expect BBC management to continue to increase the number of external clickthroughs, and make them more effective and consistent across the products," said the Trust.
The report also found that: "The BBC's national, regional and local online offer is not as strong as it should be, and does not provide enough content that is locally relevant." Feedback from audience groups supported "the firm view that the local and regional news pages are of a significantly poorer standard compared with the UK and international news."
In an attempt to improve its offering, the BBC has introduced BBC Local Live modules on local sites to provide a more dynamic and updated service, with links to external sites and more effective tagging of news content.
The BBC Trust encouraged BBC Online to offer a more personalised experience for users and to improve navigation of the site. "The BBC's internal search engine is not considered to be particularly effective by audiences or BBC management," said the Trust. The BBC expects to introduce a new internal search engine by the end of this year.
Since 2008 the reach of BBC Online has grown from 16.9m to 22.4m, driven by the increased availability of broadband services. BBC News has more than 20m unique browsers per week, Sport has 13.4m and iPlayer - which that BBC Trust said was regarded by audiences as "best in class" - reaches 14.7m.